The Great Books of Liberty – the “Guillaumin Collection”

Interview with Ross Cameron on TNT Radio 24 Sept. 2023

My collection of texts about liberty is in the tradition of earlier publishers who helped promote the spread of classical liberal ideas, such as Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) and Gilbert Guillaumin (1801–1864).

Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was active in pre-revolutionary North America and published beautifully bound copies of great books about liberty in the North American colonies. The American “Founding Fathers” all owned and read copies of his editions of John Locke, John Milton, Algernon Sidney, etc. His editions were illustrated on the leather covers and the title page with his emblems such as the Phrygian or “Liberty Cap” worn by freed slaves in the Roman republic and empire, and a dagger symbolizing the weapon used to the tyrant Julius Caesar. He also produced “post cards” with pictures of these leading liberals to advertise his books.

Gilbert Guillaumin (1801–1864) and his daughters Félicité and Pauline. ran a publishing firm in France between 1837 and 1910 (74 years) and published a total of 2,356 titles at an average of 31.8 titles p.a. During the Second Republic (1848–1852) 204 titles were published at an average of 41 p.a. During the Second Empire (1853–1870) 704 titles were published at an average of 39 p.a.

On a trip to Paris with my daughter some years ago I stayed in a rather shabby hotel on the Rue de Richelieu where the Guillaumin firm had its headquarters hoping I could feel the spirit of the liberals past who had walked that street and attended meetings in its building. The sad story is that the firm and its papers were destroyed when the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940 thus bringing an end to journals like the Journal des Économistes which had been published by Guillaumin from 1842 to 1940.

I have named my special collection of titles of “The Great Books of Liberty” the “Guillaumin Collection” in honor of these three members of the Guillaumin family and publishing firm. So far there are 123 titles by 64 authors.

Just today I have begun publishing these titles on Amazon Direct under my own publishing label of “The Pittwater Free Press”. The symbol I use for the Collection is also the “Phrygian cap” of the freed slave. I thought the name of my publishing endeavor “The Pittwater Free Press” was a good one because in the early years of the colony in Sydney Pittwater was a major route into the city for smugglers (mainly alcohol). Smuggling of course is the derogatory name given to ”free trade” by those who want to tax it or stop it. So appropriately, the first title is the first edition (1776) of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations since 1.) it is the classic defence of free trade against the protectionist “mercantilist system” of this day, and 2.) because this year is the 300th anniversary of his birth.

The first title at Amazon is Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1790) which is in ePub (Kindle) format here.

People on the left are very good at remembering their history and the key thinkers and activists in their tradition. The right is much less aware of its own past and its leading figures which is a great pity and something which my website might be able to correct.

The year 2023 is also the anniversary of several other important dates in the history of classical liberalism which, as an historians, I want to commemorate:

  1. the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio Edition in 1623 of the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  2. the 400th anniversary of the birth of Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) whose posthumous work is Discourses concerning Government was published in 1698.
  3. the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith (1723-1790), who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 (I have online the revised 1790 ed.)
  4. the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Ferguson (1723-1797), who wrote An Esssay on the History of Civil Society in 1782.
  5. the 300th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the collected Cato’s Letters (1723-24) by John Trenchard (1662-1723) and Thomas Gordon (1691-1750)
  6. the 200th anniversary of the publication of Benjamin Constant’s work on economics Commentaire sur l’ouvrage de Filangieri in 1822-24.
  7. the 100th anniversary of the death of Vilfredo Pareto (1845-1923) who wrote Traité de sociologie générale in 1917.
  8. the 50th anniversary of the death of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). 2022 was the 100th anniversary of the publication of his seminal critique of socialism Die Gemeinwirtschaft (1922). We have the second edition of 1932 online in German. We also have the 1936 English translation Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.

There are a couple of Australians in this pantheon of great classical liberal thinkers.

William Hearn (1826-1888) was the 1st professor of political economy at the University of Melbourne and a follower of the great French classical liberal Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). He published his lectures as Plutology or the Theory of the Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants (1863).

Arthur Bruce Smith (1851–1937)
was a follower of the English group of radical individualists who were part of the “Liberty and Property Defense League. Smith wrote a wonderful defence of classical liberalism in his book Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (1887). Later was elected the NSW MP representing the Sydney suburban electorate of Parkes (1901-1919).

I still have many more titles I want to add. This will keep me off the streets for a while I should think.

The intellectual antecedents of the idea of “anarcho-capitalism”

Introduction: 50 Years and counting

50 years ago I first came across the theory of anarcho-capitalism when I was in my last two years of high school (1973-74). I read everything I could get my hands on and I still have most of those books still in my possession, although they are a bit worse for wear, as you can see from the photo above. Here are the titles of the books in the photo – what is missing from this collection is Roy Childs, “An Open Letter to Ayn Rand: Objectivism and the State” (1969) which I have lost:

  1. Etienne de la Boetie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (1570s, Free Life Editions 1975)
  2. Frédéric Bastiat, Economic Sophisms (1846, FEE 1968)
  3. Frédéric Bastiat, Economic Harmonies (1851, FEE 1979)
  4. Frédéric Bastiat, Selected Essays on political Economy (FEE 1975)
  5. Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security (1849, Center for Libertarian Studies 1977)
  6. Gustave de Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Sainte-Lazare (Guillaumin 1849)
  7. Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (1851, Robert Schalkenbach Foundation 1970)
  8. Lysander Spooner, No Treason and Letter to Thomas Bayard (1870, Ralph Myles 1973
  9. Lysander Spooner, Collected Works, vol. 1 (M&S Press 1971)
  10. Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State (1935, Free Life Editions 1973)
  11. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957, New American Library, dated by me Jan. 1973)
  12. Morris and Linda Tannehill, The Market for Liberty (1970)
  13. Richard and Ernestine Perkins, Precondition for Peace and Prosperity: Rational Anarchy (1971)
  14. John Hospers Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow (1971)
  15. Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State (1962, Nash Publishing 1970)
  16. Murray N. Rothbard, Power and Market: Government and the Economy (Institute for Human Studies 1970)
  17. Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty (1973)
  18. Murray N. Rothbard, “The Anatomy, of the State” (1965) in Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature (Libertarian Review Press 1974)
  19. Robert Nozick, Anarachy, State and Utopia (1974)
  20. Workers Party. Platform (1975)

After the State Member of Parliament, John Ruddick gave his inaugural speech in the Lower House [Youtube: on 28 June 2023, in which he outlined an “anarcho-capitalist” policy agenda which he and the Liberal Democrats Party endorsed, I was asked to explain something about where the term “anarcho-capitalist” came from and what the theory was about. Here are the “interview points” I drew up, along with some recommended reading for those who would like to explore the matter further.

Interview Talking Points

1.) The term AC emerged during the 1970s in the US when the modern libertarian movement began

  1. at a time when the US was still fighting an unpopular and failing war in Vietnam
  2. Pres. Richard Nixon was trying to silence his opponents with a number of criminal activities known as the ”Watergate” break-in and resulting coverup and scandal
  3. the first “Oil Crisis” pushed up prices adding to already high inflation
  4. and in Australia just after the Labor Party came to power in 1972 and began its radical reform program

2.) its basic philosophy is a version, admittedly very radical, of what is known as “classical liberalism”, i.e. a belief that individuals have a right to life, liberty, and property so long as they do not engage in aggression (violence) against others who have an equal right to their LLP; ; what this means in practice is

  1. a belief in the importance the “non-aggression principle”, i.e. that no person (including those who work for the government) has the right to initiate the use of violence e against another person except in self-defense (this is what sets AC apart from other “classical liberals”)
  2. the protection of private property under the rule of law
  3. the right to engage in production and trade of any good or service, (thus free markets in everything)
  4. and to exchange what is produced with others – in other words free trade in everything, everywhere, with anyone
  5. thus, since governments use coercion against individuals on a massive scale (taxation, regulation, conscription, spending), they must be very limited in what they can do (the standard “classical liberal” position) , or better, done away with entirely (the anarcho-capitalist view)

3.) The term was first used and the theory developed by the Austrian economist and libertarian political philosopher Murray Rothbard in NYC, especially in his book For New Liberty (1973) and the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974)

  1. this is when the idea of AC came to Australia – so exactly 50 years ago – I was still at high school and was a member of a group of libertarians in Sydney at that time who debated its merits; the intellectual battle lines were drawn up between the supporters of the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand (limited government) and Murray Rothbard and Roy Childs (anarcho-capitalism)
  2. an influential group of people who were part of the Australian Libertarian Party of the period – going under the provocative name of the “Workers Party” – were “anarcho-capitalists”; and wrote the party’s platform and were active in the 1975 federal election which saw the end of Whitlam’s government.

4.) The much earlier antecedents go back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially among the French liberal political economists, who have been my life’s academic interest ;

  1. Jean-Baptiste Say – admired stateless settlements in American mid-west and thought they did a better job than the chaos of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic governments (lectures 1819-20)
  2. Charles Dunoyer – called for the break-up of large states as part of “the municipalisation of the world” in order to break up their power and tax-base (1825)
  3. Gustave de Molinari – the most important one in the group ; he was the first (1849) to see that, once you removed all the things governments should not do in the first place, then all so-called “public goods” (roads, lighting, police, and even national defence) could be better provided by voluntary activity in a free market
    1. either by insurance companies (1849 “The Production of Security”) who would provide police services and courts in order to protect the customer’s property by going after criminals and getting restitution
    2. or by the creation of private “proprietary communities” (1884) where entrepreneurs would build entire communities with all public services provided, which would be paid for those owners who “bought into” the community by buying a house
  4. GdM’s work on “private property insurance companies” caught Rothbard’s eye when he was writing his books in the 1950s and 1960s and this idea became a key component of his theory of AC
  5. P.S.: I should also mention the work of Herbert Spencer in the 1870s and 1880s whose social and economic theory of the state is very is very similar to anarcho-capitalism

5.) There is a new generation of anarcho-capitalist economic theorists working in the US, the most important of which are Edward Stringham and Peter Boettke ;

  1. and I continue to document the history of this tradition in my own writings and the texts I put online on my website, as I have done for over 40 years

6.) The accusation of “utopian” or “impractical” is often made against AC.

  1. The first point I would make is “like” has to be compared with “like”, in other words that
    1. the ideal of socialism should be compared to the ideal of AC
    2. and that the actual practice of socialism be compared to the actual practice of free markets
    3. too often socialist like to compare the ideal of socialism with the practice of highly regulated “capitalism” which is what we have today
  2. I would also argue that the true utopians are
    1. the socialists, who falsely believe that
      1. human nature can and should be changed so people are no longer “selfish” and “acquisitive”
      2. and the corollary that politicians and bureaucrats do not also have “selfish interests” which they pursue while in office
      3. that they can ignore or wish away the fundamental economic problem of scarcity and the need for “trade offs”
      4. that they can ignore or wish away “the knowledge problem” (Hayek) or the “economic calculation problem” (Mises)
    2. the “liberals”, who falsely believe that,
      1. even if they manage to reduce the size of government, it will not stay limited for long
      2. and all of the same beliefs the socialists have which I have listed above

Further reading

1.) Modern advocates of AC:

  • the collection of essays and extracts edited by Edward P. Stringham, Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice (The Independent Institute and Transaction Publishers, 2007)
  • a collection of essays by Peter J. Boettke, The Struggle For A Better World (Arlington, Virginia: Mercatus Center, 2021). Online;
  • the collections of essays which survey the current state of the libertarian movement:
    • The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism. Edited by: Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz (New York : Routledge, 2018),
    • The Routledge Companion to Libertarianism. Edited by Matt Zwolinski and Benjamin Ferguson (Routledge, 2022) – note that I have an essay in this volume on classical liberal ideas on “Class”, pp. 291-307. A longer version of which is online <>

2.) On the “Paris School” of Political Economy:

The Class Structure of the Modern Welfare/Administrative State

Date: 6 July, 2023

A Summary View

  1. The Sovereign Power
  2. The Ruling Elite
  3. The Political Class
  4. The Bureaucratic or Functionary Class
    1. Force Wielding Institutions
    2. The Welfare State
    3. The Regulatory State
  5. The Plutocratic or “Crony Capitalist” Class
  6. State Privileged or Dependent Firms & their Employees
    1. State Owned Firms
    2. State Privileged Firms
    3. State Dependent Firms
  7. The Dependent Class
  8. Net Tax Payers (NTP)

A More Detailed Discussion

The Sovereign Power

The Sovereign Power historically used to be a single person, such as a monarch, emperor, or dictator. All legitimate power came from them and they considered all the property and the inhabitants in the country to be “theirs” to do with what they willed. In the modern state “sovereignty” is more nebulous in that it can reside in a semi-fictitious entity known as “The Crown”, or “the people” as represented in an elected body like Parliament or Congress.

The Ruling Elite

The “ruling elite” is the ultimate decision maker of policy, drawn from the ruling family, tribe, army, nobility, church, political party, senior leaders of congress or parliament, and legal, banking, industrial, security elites, depending upon the historical circumstances. This relatively small group control the “Command Centres” of the state (the Presidency, Congress, the military, the intelligence services, the Federal Reserve (or Reserve Bank), the Supreme Court, the Taxation Office, etc) and run the show. This group is a very small minority of those who benefit from access to state power. Some theorists also call this group the “Deep State” which was first developed to explain the power structure within the modern Turkish state. They remain in power for long periods of time and are shielded from the upheavals and uncertainties of the electoral cycle.

The Political Class

The “Political Class” more generally speaking is made up of elected politicians who sit in Congress / Parliament. The real power wielders in Parliament are the senior party leaders, the chairmen of the more important congressional committees which control spending and formulate legislation, and senior bureaucrats who run the main government bureaucracies (Health, Education, Welfare). Most MPs are concerned with getting re-elected and serving the vested interests in their state or district. We can add to this group some of the more wealthy and influential “private individuals” from finance, banking, think tanks, industry (especially defence and communications), and media moguls who advise the government on policy matters. Much of their influence comes from their ability to raise funds for politicians to get elected.

The Bureaucratic or Functionary Class

The Bureaucratic or Functionary Class carry out and implement the government policies which they are given. This large group can be divided into those who run and work for the “Force Wielding Institutions” which have a monopoly of the use of force or violence, such as the Courts, police, prisons, and the armed forces; the main government bureaucracies of the “Welfare State” such as Health, Education, and Welfare; and the other bureaucracies and Commissions which administer and regulate the economy and citizen’s lives (i.e. the Regulatory State)

Many bureaucrats and sate functionaries are low ranking office workers, public school teachers, and post office workers, etc, and are thus by no means members of the “ruling class” but they are in a technical sense “net tax-receivers” and have a long-term interest in voting to maintain government (or rather tax-payer) funding for the institutions which employ them and pay their retirement benefits.

The Plutocratic or “Crony Capitalist” Class

The Plutocratic or Crony Capitalist Class are very wealthy and influential business owners who actively seek to get or retain special privileges from the state in the form of subsidies, contracts, monopolies, favourable legislation, favourable monetary policy, etc. This class is quite complex to understand using the crude NTP/NTR distinction since they may still receive most of their income from the private sector (hence making them technically NTP). However they benefit enormously from their access to state by getting the entire economic system skewed in their favour.

State Privileged or Dependent Firms & their Employees

There are several types of firms in this category. There are the “State Owned Firms” which are entities owned and run by the state. These include (or used to include) transport (buses, railways, ports), public utilities (water, gas, electricity), and industries considered to be of “strategic” importance such as munitions and armaments work. Another category are “State Privileged Firms” which have been given “protection” or subsidies such as the car industry or the sugar industry. A third category are “State Dependent Firms” who earn some of their income by selling goods and services in the market but which also seek and get government contracts in order to make profits. They are a complex mixture of sometimes being a “tax receiver” as well as a “tax payer”. Whether they are “net” in one direction of the other has to be determined on a case by case study. The latter two categories are nominally private firms which receive the bulk (perhaps all) of their income from privileges granted to them by the state, such as tariff protection for the car industry, or who are largely dependent for their income on contracts made with the government (and paid by tax-payers) such as companies which specialize in building highways or military equipment.

The Dependent Class

The Dependent Class is comprised of people who receive benefits from the state such as health, retirement, or other welfare benefits. Some were NTP when they were working (probably in the private sector) but are now NTR in their retirement. Others have always been NTR. Some others are very poor and/or sick people who have been trapped in the cycle of poverty which has been created by the welfare state over the past 60 years. This latter group might also be categorised as “victims” rather than “beneficiaries” of the modern welfare state.

Net Tax Payers (NTP)

“Net Tax Payers” consists of individuals and firms who pay more in taxes than they receive in state benefits. Historically, there have also been groups who have been forced to labour for little or no remuneration (slaves, serfs, conscripts). This group is a complex one because it is not immediately apparent whether they are, on net, NTP or not. There may be some clear examples of “pure net tax-payers” still in existence, but in this thoroughly statised and regulated world most of us would fall into the category of the “grey zone” where we pay taxes but also “consume taxes” in the form of using streets and getting police protection from robbers. Then there are the people who change their class status over time, people who are net tax-payers in their prime working age and then become net tax-receivers in their retirement.

For further reading on CLCA

  • see a page which lists the material on my website on CLCA: <>
  • my chapter on “Class” in The Routledge Companion to Libertarianism. Edited by Matt Zwolinski and Benjamin Ferguson (Routledge, 2022) , pp. 291-307.
  • a much longer version of which is here: “Libertarian Class Analysis: An Historical Survey” <>
  • a paper I gave at the 2018 Libertarian Scholars Conference, The Kings College, NYC, 20 Oct. 2018: “Plunderers, Parasites, and Plutocrats: Some Reflections on the Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Classical Liberal Class Analysis” <>
  • the book I co-edited of a collection of texts in classical liberal and libertarian class analysis, Social Class and State Power: Exploring an Alternative Radical Tradition, ed. David M. Hart, Gary Chartier, Ross Miller Kenyon, and Roderick T. Long (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

The Key Ideas behind Classical Liberal Class Analysis

[Frontispiece to John Wade’s “Black Book” (1835) showing John Bull (i.e. the British people) who has been captured and tied down (like Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by the Lilliputians, who in this case are figures representing the army, the church, members of parliament, and the judiciary. The Lilliputians taunt him and rifle his pockets to steal his money.]

Concepts which Apply to Human Behavior and Economic Activity in General and which are also applicable to CLCA

Note: the abbreviation CL = classical liberal and CLCA = classical liberal class analysis.

Before discussing the key ideas which are specific to CLCA we should take note of some more generals principles which apply to all people in every aspect of their lives.

The first thing to note is that every individual has interests and goals which they attempt to pursue and to satisfy. It is generally believed that these so-called “selfish interests” are revealed primarily in “economic activity” where people pursue “profits” or a narrowly-defined “economic” betterment of their lives. Classical economics was criticized for assuming the existence of an “economic man” who was entirely devoted to the pursuit of these kinds of interests. and goals. This of course is too narrow a view as people have “interests” which are much broader than this as Adam Smith discussed in great detail in his work The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

The great insight of the Public Choice school of economics (James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock) was that workers in the “public sector” also had interests and goals which they attempted to pursue by working within state institutions, such parliament or Congress, or the state bureaucracy, just as other individuals pursued their interests and goals in the “economy”. The interests and goals of politicians and bureaucrats are things like fame, power, high salaries, increased budgets to dispose of, promotion, and so on.

The second thing to note is that people associate with others in order to better pursue their interests and to achieve their goals. In the personal or economic realm they form groups, associations, clubs, business firms, and churches; and, in the political realm they form lobby groups, political parties, and governments, etc. What is common to both forms of association is that individuals with common goals and shared interests come together to better achieve those goals and to pursue those interests.

People can form associations and behave within them and with other individuals and associations in two different ways. They can either associate with others in a peaceful and cooperative manner where no coercion or physical force is used and their rights to life, liberty and property are respected, and all parties in the association and those outside the association with whom they deal, enjoy the mutual benefits of such association. This way of peacefully associating creates a myriad of voluntary associations and allows for a vast network of voluntary exchanges to take place in what we call “markets” and “civil society”.

Or people can associate in order to use force or violence to pursue their interests and achieve their goals. They can thus steal the property of other people, and can force them to act or not act in ways the association does not like. These coercive associations can be “private” (as in criminal gangs, or pirates) or more formally organised “public institutions” such as an army, a government, or an “established” church.

The third general point which needs to be made is that within these associations and institutions people act or change their actions and behaviour as a result of the existence of incentives and disincentives which they face. If there are opportunities to “profit” from doing “x” they will have an incentive to do “x” and more likely than not will do “x”. Here I mean by “profit” an improvement in their situation, the achieving of one of their goals, or the furthering of one of their interests.

The Key Ideas which are specific to CLCA

The most important concept for CLs is the idea that there are two mutually exclusive ways in which wealth can be acquired. This idea has been best explored and described by the French political economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-185), the German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943), and the American economist Murray Rothbard (1926-1995). In Oppenheimer’s terminology there is “the economic means” of acquiring wealth (by producing things oneself or by voluntary trade with others, in other words by free trade and free markets) and “the political means” of acquiring wealth (by the use of force to acquire things other people have produced, in other words by taxation, confiscation, forced labour (slavery), and regulation.

Coercion can be used by individuals acting “privately” as with thieves and robbers to directly steal the property of others, or what Bastiat called “extra-legal plunder”, i.e. plunder which takes outside or against the law, as in burglary or highway robbery.

Another way is which can be used is “publicly” in an institutionalized manner by the state itself, or what Bastiat “ called legal plunder” , i.e. plunder sanctioned or carried out by the state and its agents.

Thus CLs emphasize the central role played by state coercion in enabling plunder to take place, either by other “legally privileged” individuals, who are given monopolies, land grants, protection from competition, subsidies, or other benefits; or in an organised and institionalised way through state bodies and administration, such as taxation, regulation of trade and industry, legal protection to own slaves, and conscription into the army.

Therefore, whether or not a person or group used coercion to acquire wealth and other benefits was viewed by CLs as the defining characteristic of two different kinds of “class” (or groups) which were important in understanding how their societies functioned and explained the tensions and conflicts within their societies. The particular terms CLs used to describe these two classes varied over time (see fuller description below) but they had one thing common; they were not based on “wealth” as such (as in “rich vs. poor”) or social or economic function (as in a “worker earning wages” vs. the capitalist who owned the factory which paid the wages) but rather how that wealth or function was acquired or carried out – whether by coercion or by voluntary exchange with others. Thus for CLs this notion of class was a “political” one which had the coercive powers of the state at its core.

According to this view then, those who use “the economic means” to acquire wealth or pursue their goals constitute one class which has been variously described as the “productive” or “industrious “ class”, “la classe spoliée” (the plundered class), or more generally “the ruled”.

On the other hand, those who use “the political means” to acquire wealth or pursue their goals constitute an “unproductive” class, “la classe spoliatrice” (the plundering class), or more generally “the ruling class” or “the rulers”.

It follows from this division of society into two classes each of which has a different way of “acquiring wealth” or pursuing and achieving other goals and interests, that there has been and still is today an antagonistic relationship between these two classes which has manifested itself over the centuries as a “class struggle”; between the exploited productive class which wishes to keep the property it has created or acquired through peaceful exchange, and the exploiting unproductive class which wishes to maintain or increase the benefits it gets from the exploited productive class.

Because this antagonism has manifested itself differently at different historical moments the study of the history of this class struggle and system of exploitation has interested CL historians and political economists for several centuries. In their historical writings they have identified a number of paradigmatic forms which this system of class exploitation has taken, namely,

1.) the conquering class vs. the conquered class (the Levellers, Thomas Paine, Augustin Thierry)

2.) the slave owning class vs. the slaves (Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Gustave de Molinari)

3.) the feudal and aristocratic land-owning class vs. the serfs who work the land, and the privileged merchants who benefited from the policy of “mercantilism” which regulated the towns-people who produced other goods an services (Adam Smith, Richard Cobden)

4.) and in the more complex commercial and industrial stage of economic development which emerged in the 19thC there are the “net tax-receivers” (those who receive more in benefits and privileges from the state than they pay in taxes) vs. the “net tax payers” (those who pay more than than they receive in benefits and privileges from the state) (Frédéric Bastiat, Calhoun)

5.) in the late 19thC and especially after WW2 there appeared another important group which was part of the welfare and administrative state, i.e. the professional and permanent members of the bureaucracies which regulated economic activity and managed the growing expenditure and redistribution of tax money for state-provided health, education, and welfare. We now have a new pairing of classes, namely “the regulators / administrators” vs. “those who are regulated / administered”. (William Graham Sumner, Herbert Spencer)

It is not surprising then, that CL historians, political economists, and sociologists have argued that societies have evolved over time through stages each with its own particular means of producing wealth and with its own particular types of “ruling class” which extracts this wealth from the producing class. A handful of radical and more optimistic CLs (Gustave de Molinari, Herbert Spencer, Murray Rothbard) thought that eventually a fully liberal society might emerge in which exploitation and rule by an exploiting class would come to an end as the state was dismantled entirely and its coercive activities replaced by voluntary and market alternatives. The more pessimistic CLs (most “classical liberals”) thought that it might be possible to limit exploitation by means of a written constitution, limited government, and vigilant “pro-liberty” public opinion.


So in conclusion I would summarize the key ideas behind CLCA as follows:

1.) every individual has interests and goals
2.) people associate with others in order to better pursue their interests and to achieve their goals
3.) there are two mutually exclusive ways in which wealth can be acquired, either by non-violent production and exchange (the “economic means of acquiring wealth”), or the use of violence and coercion to take what others have produced and created (“the political means”)
4.) the state is thus the “organization and institutionalization of the political means” of acquiring wealth and pursuing its members goals, which extracts wealth from the tax-paying public and uses it for its own purposes or gives it to its allies and its supporters
5.) this creates two “classes” within society: those who use “the economic means” to acquire wealth and pursue their goals and who constitute the productive, exploited (plundered) class, or “the ruled”; and
those who use “the political means” to acquire wealth and pursue their goals and who constitute the unproductive, exploiting (plundering) class, or “the rulers.”
6.) these two classes are in an antagonistic relationship with each other, since those who are the exploited or plundered class wish to minimize or end entirely the amount of their liberty and property which is taken by the exploiting class; while this exploiting class wishes to maintain or even enlarge their position of power and wealth acquisition over those they rule.
7.) the class structure of our society has evolved over centuries as the means of production of wealth has changed and as the particular groups which control the state have also changed. evertheless the thing which has not changed is that fact these two types of class still exist and that the antagonistic relation between the two still remains, thus causing hardship and injustice which CLs wish to end.

The eBook Collection of the “Digital Library of Liberty and Power”

The texts in this collection are classic works about liberty which I believe deserve more careful formatting. They are either first editions or later, revised, definitive editions of the work.

The image I have chosen for the “logo” of the collection is of a “Phrygian cap”, the cap worn by freed slaves in the ancient world. This particular image comes from the French revolutionary period. It was also used by Thomas Hollis in the mid-18th century for his collection of books about liberty which he published and circulated in the American colonies in the decades leading up to the American Revolution.

To make these editions useful to scholars and to make it more readable, I have done the following:

General Formatting Principles

  1. the HTML version of the text has been checked against a facsimile PDF of the original; this facs. PDF is included in the “collection of files” which have been “zipped” for convenient download
  2. I have avoided the practice of some coders to laboriously “over code” the text by keeping the coding clean and simple, based upon the structure of the text (heading levels, quotes, page numbers, footnotes) using a common “cascading style sheet” which is modified on occasion to suit the specific text.
  3. once the HTML text has been formatted a text based PDF is created from it (using “Print to PDF” from the browser and then edited in Acrobat), as is an ePub version (using Calibre)
  4. these texts (HTML, PDF, ePub) along with the accompanying css file, facsimile PDF, and any images, are “zipped” into a collection which can be downloaded as a “collection”

(See the screen snapshots below which illustrate some of these principles.)

More Specific Formatting Principles

  1. I have inserted and highlighted the page numbers of the original edition (this is enable the reader to cite the exact page number of a quote)
  2. when possible, I have inserted unique paragraph ID numbers in the text (these remain hidden for the time being but they can be viewed in “Page Source”)
  3. I have not split a word if it has been hyphenated across a line or a new page (this will assist in making word searches across the text)
  4. I have retained the spaces which separate sections of the text (and in some instances increased them slightly to make the text easier to read, particularly to separate numbered sections of the text in the volumes by John Locke, Herbert Spencer, an d Vilfredo Pareto)
  5. I have created an indented “blocktext” for long quotations
  6. I have placed the footnotes at the end of the book or major section
  7. I have moved the table of contents to the top of the file and inserted “back links” to facilitate navigation of the text)
  8. I have used a fixed width of 600 pixels for the main body of the text to make online reading easier
  9. I have formatted short margin notes to float right; longer margin notes have been turned into endnotes
  10. I have inserted Greek and Hebrew words as images
  11. I have also used images to display graphs and complex tables

(See the screen snapshots below which illustrate some of these principles.)

In summary: The texts are available in ebook HTML, ebook PDF, and ePub formats, and include the page numbers of the original editions. The style sheet is designed to make them look as similar to the original edition as possible. They are also packaged in a zipped file which contains all eBook formats and copies of the original text in facsimile PDF.

Selection Criteria for the Texts

I began working on this collection in June 2022 and now have online a collection of 30 texts. These are books which I consider to be some of the most significant works about liberty ever written. I have been gradually working my way through my list of “The Great Books of Liberty” here.

Another feature which I believe is important is that whenever possible we should go back to the original text, the first edition if possible (or the final version done by the author in his lifetime, e.g. the 1790 edition of Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments), and in the original language.

Some of the works are multi-volume ones, such as Herbert Spencer’s The Principles of Sociology or Alexis de Toqueville’s De la Démocratie en Amérique. I have preserved the integrity of the separate volumes in my editions, but I have also taken the liberty of combining them into one long file, again to aid doing word searches across the entire text.

Given the unfortunate neglect of classical liberal sociology (see my blog post on this here I have made a conscious effort in this initial collection to give special attention to this area, as with the work by Comte and Dunoyer, Herbert Spencer, Gustave de Molinari, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vilfredo Pareto, Friedrich von Wieser, and Franz Oppenheimer.

Screen snapshots

[The HTML text (Bastiat) in a browser showing the chapter heading, back link, the original page number.]

[The HTML in a browser (Condorcet) showing the original page number, the table of contents, and a chapter with a back link to the ToC.]

[The HTML in a browser (Locke), showing a chapter with page number, back link tot he ToC, an image of a Greek phrase, a link to a footnote (now an “endnote”).]

[Editing the text in Dreamweaver (Molinari). It shows the original page number (“pn”), the chapter heading with a back link to the main table of contents, a “blockquote” for a long quotation, and the unique paragraph ID number.]

[The HTML in a browser (Pareto) showing the highlighted and numbered paragraph section, the image of a greek quote, a link to some additional text which can be found at the end of the document, a footnote/endnote reference number (which is not linked in this case), and space between the numbered sections.]

[The HTML in a browser (Pareto) showing the volume volume page number, a heading with a back link to the ToC, the space between the numbered sections, the image of a “figure”.]

[The HTML in a browser (Spencer) showing the multi-volume page number, a chapter heading and back link, a numbered section with a gasp between it and the next.]